My phone rang Friday evening. "Herring" was spelled out on the caller ID screen. I decided to answer.
"What are you doing tomorrow night?" Kyle's voice was upbeat. I paused for a moment to consider my options. I could quickly make something up, or I could tell the truth and cross my fingers whatever he was about to suggest would either tolerable, digestible, or both.
"Nothing, what's up?" I answered.
"Heather [a member of our Space EdVentures Foundation Board] has an extra ticket for you to the Lincoln Day Banquet at UVU tomorrow night. Do you want to go?"
Long story short, I tried everything I could think of to get out of saying yes. Then Kyle hit me with a point of logic I couldn't argue away. If our new Space EdVentures Foundation was to ever raise money to rent the simulators from the school district for private missions and camps, someone like me had to get out there and press the flesh.
"Network, network network," he hit me over and over again in a machine gun verbal assault.
After hanging up, I cursed the fact that I committed to venture far outside my comfort zone to rub shoulders with the top dogs of Utah County's Republican Party with cap in hand, hoping for a lead to that promised land of unlimited funds for worthy projects.
Heather called right after I hung up with Kyle. "I know this is outside your comfort zone," she assured me, "but you'll do fine. I'll introduce you to the Governor. It will be good chance to network."
Now, Fast Forward to Saturday Night.
I drove all over UVU's campus looking for the right building. The campus was different from the last time I was there. Feeling frustrated, I parked at the Events Center and walked into one of the buildings. I found a campus map. The ballroom was easy to spot. What I couldn't find was where I was; the map was missing the big arrow and sticker saying "You are Here". The hallways were empty. I felt like the lone survivor in an end of the world movie.
A student approached.
"Excuse me, can you tell me where the ballroom is?" I asked. He looked confused. "How about the bookstore. The ballroom is next to it," I explained.
His face lit up with understanding. "Go down this hall to the end, turn left and keep going. I think the bookstore is down that hall. I don't know how far, but you can't miss it. It says bookstore."
Did he think I was a simpleton? Of course the Bookstore would say Bookstore.
I thanked him and started my adventure. The hallway stretched on forever. It was like one of those forever expanding corridors you see in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It kept going and going and going. I wondered if it eventually came to an end near the WalMart a mile or two away.
I passed an elderly couple siting side by side in the semi dark hallway. They looked up at me from their chairs. The woman smiled. Her lips were parched. They looked completely spent, as if they'd been there a week or two - lost in the never ending labyrinth I had just entered.
I returned her smile and kept walking and walking, and walking. After a few minutes, I reached a fork in the hallway. I paused to catch my breath. Robert Frost's poem came to mind, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep and I have miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep".
I remembered the student's directions and took the left fork, it was the road less traveled. I was definitely on an adventure. The lights in the hallway got brighter a few more minutes into my quest. Human voices permeated the void. I had discovered intelligent life! I found the ballroom! Hundreds of Utah County's rich and powerful swarmed in front of me. They were the big wigs of the Republican Party - gathered to network, rub shoulders, share stories and decide the fate of every living, and soon to be dead, citizen of Utah.
I was way out of my comfort zone. I didn't know a living soul. They were not my people. I was Daniel, in a foreign land. I was examined from top to toe by several pairs of eyes as I advanced toward the registration table. I was an anomaly. I was a mystery. They were trying to place me into one of their social circles, and had no luck in doing so. I found my name tag and clipped it to my suit coat pocket.
"Network, network, network...." I thought to myself. My heart beat faster. My blood pressure rose. I decided to make a tactical retreat to the bathroom to regroup. I emerged a few minutes later with a renewed confidence. "Network, network network," I kept repeating to myself as I walked back into the lion's den. Several people passed me, still confused as to who I was. My name tag wasn't helping either. I saw a few empty chairs near the entrance to the ballroom. I thought to drop anchor in a chair for a few minutes to review my situation (any harbor in a storm). I sat down and looked at my watch. The night seemed like it would never end. I harnessed my uneasiness and wiped a bit of moisture from my upper lip and forehead.
My nose picked up a few strange smells as I waited for the dinner to start. The first scent was a very distinct back of the closet smell. You know the place - where you keep the clothes you rarely wear. I rarely wear suits. I realized it was me who I was smelling.
"Lovely," I thought to myself. "Here I am, smelling like a cross between mothballs and Old Spice, at the very heart of local government power."
The other smell striking a claim to my nose, reminded me of a bank. It was the smell of money- copious amounts of money. It wasn't a bad smell, but very noticeable.
I chucked to myself. Here I was, a member of Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party, sitting at the very heart of right wing conservatism. And how out of place I must have looked. I notice how perfect everyone appeared; shining shoes, shining Rolex watches, shining jewels, twinkling (recently whitened) teeth, perfectly combed hair with just the right amount of gel to thwart the mischief of any unwelcomed breeze. I noticed how friendly everyone was with each other. Not only were hands being shook, but shoulders were being embraced and arm's gently squeezed in over the top acts of familiarity.
"Networking. These people are networking!" The obvious dawned on me. I knew I had to stand up and start networking for our foundation.
"May we begin." Someone announced from the ballroom. I stood up, looked at my name tag, saw I was assigned to table 20, took a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. A sign over the ballroom double doors read "Leaving the Comfort Zone."
Table 20 was smack dab in the front middle of the ballroom. I sat down at the empty table. The rolls looked delicious. Another plate held a variety of pastries. Everything was perfect. I felt I had just entered Downtown Abbey. In my mind's eye I could see the huddle masses outside in the cold of a winter's night, starving, while I sat surrounded by wealth and plenty.
"Network, network, network." The words kept coming back to me. But there was no one to network with. I was the only person at my table. I felt a bit of panic. The other tables were a buzz with the sounds of networking. The only sounds at my table were crickets and a distant crow.
It was time to stand for the color guard. I was the only person standing at my table. The other tables were nearly full. We said the Pledge of Allegiance. I was still alone. I felt a spotlight pointed at the bald spot on top of my head. I was becoming very uncomfortable. The national anthem was performed by one of the Osmonds. I was still the lone occupant of table 20.
I felt my fight or flight instinct take hold. I knew I was going to do something. Would I fight? Would I make a fool of myself and walk up to the microphone at the front of the room and say, "I'm here to network. Does anyone want to network with me?" Or, would I 'flight' and make a run for it. I hesitated for a moment, then made a beeline out of the ballroom.
I reentered the real world. I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. As I navigated the long hallway, I passed a dozen or so students who looked just as lower middle class as myself. "These are my people," I thought.
I write this to apologize to everyone for failing at my first attempt to network. At least give me credit for trying. It isn't easy, just try it sometime - solo might I add.
We soldier on into a new week and reopen for field trips. I'll do better at field trips. Hiding behind a wall with a microphone in hand is more my style.
Have a Great Week!
Space and Science News
Asteroid to Get Very Close
An asteroid, measuring 150ft (50m) across, called 2012 DA14 will flyby our planet on 15 Feb, 2013. At its closest point, it’ll be a mere 17,200 miles from Earth, about 5000 miles closer than our satellites that sit in geosynchronous orbit. That is, in fact, the closest pass by any asteroid known in advance.
Question is, will it hit us? – The answer is, no according to NASA.
NASA Tells You Why We Are Safe:
No More Injections: Dried Sugar Used to Create Microneedle Array
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped fund research carried out at King’s College London to produce a microneedle array made from dried sugar. It looks a lot like the tongue cleaner you find on the back of a toothbrush, but instead it can be (painlessly) pushed into the skin to administer a vaccine. Read More
Mars Curiosity Rover Update
Remember to find ways to make the ordinary, extraordinary.
How Science Works
A ring watch. Creativity: A
An imaginative way of dealing with a tree.
A sandwich suitcase.
The colors tell the temperature.
See how Time Flies.
Do you see the soldier?
Something honest out of China.
Why do you do this?
The cause of many cases of road rage.
A troublesome morning commute.
A billboard for the employees of the Manhattan Project.
Life isn't perfect. Is it?
One of life's perfect moments.
Never stop trying!
Is there a better way to eat sushi?
Brilliance in design
A deck desk.
The Last Photograph Taken of the Titanic.
Death by Diet Mt. Dew.
Something to do with your spare time.
Imagination at Work
Brilliance in advertising.
What a Cake!
Two Video Selections of the Day.
Prepare to be Amazed. The Wonders of Science
The Difference One Second Can Make.